Re: Tough Questions

Matt Gingell (mjg223@is7.nyu.edu)
Tue, 31 Aug 1999 23:19:19 -0400



From: Patrick Wilken <patrickw@cs.monash.edu.au> To: <extropians@extropy.com>
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 1999 9:11 PM
Subject: Re: Tough Questions

>Many people on this list rightly fear and loath the tryanny of the majority
>over that of the minority. One aspect of this is the tryanny of government
>over peoples lives. The counter-problem has not had as much air time
>(perhaps because the rights of an individual are seen - rightly in my
>opinion - as so important).
> ...

This is a very good point and one that I think has been missed in some of these discussions. There is a tremendous tension between individual freedom and the common good. This has always been true, and the Western political tradition has in large part been a search for a principled line between the two. Itís a fundamental question of political philosophy with a broad range of defensible answers: you can imagine a spectrum with fanatic libertarians towards one end and die hard socialists towards the other. The dialectic has been going on at least since Rousseau and Locke.

The wonderful thing about the free market is that it aligns individual and common interest across a wide variety of domains. It isnít perfect though, no matter what the lunatic fringe would have you believe. Society certainly has the right to say you canít burn an undiscovered Shakespeare, no matter what value you personally derive from seeing it destroyed. It seems insane to me to suggest an individual should be able to own a weapon of mass destruction, no matter what the utility is for that individual.

-matt